August 25, 2009 It’s amazing to watch a kid internalizing something that is happening to them and then see it show up in their play. I was in the kitchen cleaning up today and heard Jake yelling, “No, no, no!” at Tanner as she was saying, “You have to hold still or it will hurt!” This, in the world of a mother, is grounds for leaping the kitchen bar to see what is going on.
What I found was Jake, lying on the floor with his shirt unbuttoned, Tanner trying to hold him down as she “sliced” him with a pretend scalpel from the doctor kit. After convincing Tanner that she really shouldn’t hold her brother down for pretend medical procedures, I volunteered to let her operate on me instead.
Tanner proceeded, with great aplomb, to surgically implant a port-a-cath into my chest. Well, actually, it was a little closer to my belly-button, but why nitpick?
She then accessed my port with a pretend needle, and with a syringe, proceeded to “flush” my port and administer chemo. All the while, I was supposed to be asleep from “sleepy milk.”
Priceless… both for my memory bank and for Tanner’s mental health. In one playful moment, she turned the tables and became the one in control of all the medical procedures she has endured. Good for her.
This play mimics many of the things that happen to her each week at clinic or have happened to her during her hospital stay at diagnosis. The day after she was diagnosed, Tanner had a port-a-cath surgically implanted into her chest. This is a small, circular port with a silicone bubble on the top and a catheter line that runs from the port to an artery directly above her heart. When she needs anything you would normally receive or give through an IV (blood, medicine, chemo, etc.), she gets it through her port. It allows medicine to get through her body quickly and allows her more freedom than a central line which leaves the IV tubes hanging out of the child’s chest. Every week, when we go to clinic, the nurse sticks Tanner with an IV needle through her skin into her port. That’s how they draw blood to check her counts and how the administer her chemo. Luckily, there is a numbing cream we can put on her port before we go to the hospital that really cuts down on the pain of accessing (and deaccessing) the port.
Last week, she sat at a disconnected computer in my office while Jake and I played foosball and pretended to be the admitting clerk at the hospital. She told me to pretend I was in the ER and she was trying to find me a room. The conversation went something like this:
T: Mam, can you tell me your name?
B: Beth Page
T: What is your son’s name?
T: Same last name?
B: Uh, yes.
T: Your phone number area code first?
B: I give the number, trying not to laugh
T: I’ll need your insurance company
B: United Healthcare
T: And your group number
B: Pause (Now I am laughing and have to take a moment). 51645
T: Thank you, Mam. I’m looking for a room for you and your son. You don’t want to have to sleep in the ER; it’s very noisy here. Just give me a minute. (she types at the computer for a while). Guess what? I found you a room! You’re so lucky!
Too funny… and too awesome. This is exactly the type of thing that lets her process what has been happening to her and shows me that she is accepting this new normal. She is six, but she has it all figured out, thanks to a doctor’s kit and a somewhat willing brother as a patient.